The organizer of a job fair in Bathurst this week says too many young people are being pressured into university when they would be better suited for work in the trades.
Colleen Fournier, who is looking for construction workers and heavy equipment mechanics for companies around the world, says there is a growing shortage of skilled tradespeople and it's time for a change in attitude.
"With our kids, I think that we also need to push them where their strengths are and that may not be university," she said.
"I mean, there's a lot of young children out there that feel that pressure that they have to go to university and they have to get this great big education when really they'd be better suited for trades."
'We've really made blue collar work look like a bit of a second-tier occupation. That if you have to work with your hands … that somehow that is a lesser accomplishment than actually going and getting a university degree.' —Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation, University of Saskatchewan
Ken Coates, the Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the University of Saskatchewan, who recently wrote an article on the value of a university education, agrees.
"We've really made blue collar work look like a bit of a second-tier occupation. That if you have to work with your hands as an electrician, as a plumber, as a mill wright in a mining company, or whatever, that somehow that is a lesser accomplishment than actually going and getting a university degree."
Meanwhile, many university graduates are unemployed, or underemployed, and employers are scrambling to find people with the right skills, Coates said.
He believes it's time for parents and guidance counsellors to have an honest discussion with young people about what their options are after high school, besides university.
"We are at a time right now with the so-called entitlement generation, where parents and high school teachers and guidance counsellors all tell all the students that they're wonderful, that they can be anything they want to be and we need some tough talk," said Coates.
"You know, if the child is not motivated to learn, isn't interested and curious about the world, they're going to have real troubles in university."
Society needs to recognize the value of community colleges and apprenticeships, he said.
More than 200 people attended the job fair on Tuesday.